Human rights abuses see Cameroon trade benefits scrapped


US President Donald Trump will end Cameroon’s preferential trade benefits from January 1, citing what he called the African country’s “persistent gross violations of internationally recognised human rights.”

In a letter to the US Congress, Trump said Cameroon failed to address US concerns regarding extrajudicial killings, torture and other persistent human rights violations committed by Cameroonian security forces.

“I am taking this step because I have determined the Government of Cameroon engages in gross violations of internationally recognised human rights, contravening the eligibility requirements of section 104 of the (African Growth and Opportunity Act),” Trump wrote.

Deputy US Trade Representative CJ Mahoney said the US government remained concerned about human rights violations committed by the Cameroonian government against its own citizens.

“This action underscores the Administration’s commitment to upholding human rights criteria as required by AGOA legislation,” he said in a separate statement.

Mahoney urged the government of Cameroon to work with the US and the international community to strengthen protection of human rights under the law and to publicly hold to account those who engage in human rights violations.

In order to qualify for preferential benefits under AGOA, partner countries must meet certain eligibility requirements, including not engaging in gross violations of internationally recognised human rights.

They must also demonstrate progress to establishing the rule of law, political pluralism, establishing internationally recognised worker rights and the elimination of barriers to US trade and investment.

Sixty-five civil society organisations urged the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to address serious and systematic human rights violations in Cameroon.

In a joint appeal, they said violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions led to 3 000 deaths over the past three years, forcing half a million people to flee their homes and leaving over 700 000 children out of school.

Cameroon President Paul Biya, who has governed for nearly four decades, is seeking to calm unrest stoked by a disputed presidential election last year and the separatist insurrection.